It’s also true that some N&I reporters—including Eileen M. Drennen, a “mojo” reporter in Gwinnett County, who proudly shows off her digital pictures; Mary Lou Pickel, who writes “newsy enterprise” off her immigration beat; and Jennifer Brett, who blogs as The Social Butterfly—seem invigorated by the challenges of the New World. “We have a plan to march us into the future,” says Brett. “A lot of newspapers are writing the Book of Revelation. You know, ‘These are the end times.’ It’s almost like we’re writing the Book of Genesis.”
The streamlining of the newsroom may, in fact, give reporters more voice in shaping the newspaper. Take the page-one meeting, which Nancy Albritton, senior editor of page one in Print, presides over with sardonic grace. In the New World, this 1:30 p.m. meeting was supposed to be a stand-up huddle in the newsroom—a step toward inclusiveness—but that quickly proved unworkable. “It was chaos,” Albritton says. So instead, editors from N&I, Enterprise, and Print all gather in the conference room.
Today, Bill Sanders, an Enterprise reporter, is there, too, pitching a feature on a school for troubled kids that rewards good behavior with dirt-bike-riding privileges. He speaks with a trace of nervousness, while his editor stands supportively beside him. “It’s a purely motivational way to try to keep kids who are on their last chance in school, and the early anecdotal evidence is that it’s a huge success,” he says.
“And it doesn’t hurt at all that your editor is also a biker, right?” Albritton says, smiling.
In the end, Albritton, who has been taking assiduous notes, issues a decision: “So with very, very tight space, we’re going to take a bat [“big ass tease”] on the Fed. I would like to have something on Blackwater, something on the [DeKalb County] home invasion—I think it’s stunning that someone can go in and shoot and kill kids and get out—and then I think the cycles story [Sanders’s feature] is probably good for us. Is that suitable for all involved?”
Albritton seems like a natural at the job, bantering later with Roughton in a way reminiscent of newsrooms of old. “It isn’t my fault,” she says of the day’s slim news pickings. “I’m merely the catcher. I have to cook whatever groceries are brought.”
That wasn’t always the case. “In the Old World, I had the best job ever, ever, ever,” she says, when she was editor of the mesh desk—medicine, environment, science, and health. She likes her new work: “This is no small job at all. It is as fun as anything I’ve ever done. I love it.” But she loved the old one more. “That doesn’t mean that this will not eventually mesmerize me as much.”
She also frets about the way the reorganization has severed enterprise from beat reporting—a move Klibanoff says was made, in part, to ensure that enterprise stories didn’t wither away undone. “I know that this model is working beautifully for online,” Albritton says. “But I worry that we have to find our equilibrium here for print.”
But Albritton can also grow emotional in defense of the Journal-Constitution. “This is a very friendly and very caring, hard-working, work-together, play-together newsroom,” she says, “and everyone is determined that we’re going to make it work. They love this newspaper and they love each other, and I think that’s going to trump a lot of the trouble that they’ve had.”
It’s mid-afternoon, and Chris Stanfield, a senior editor for photography in N&I, interrupts our conversation, ready to leave but wanting to talk. He has been working since about 6 a.m. in the slot—a position akin to a day managing editor, presiding over news assignments. It’s an unusual, perhaps daunting task for a photo editor—but his is just the sort of adaptability the AJC is banking on.